WORSHIP WITH US!
8:30AM, 9:45AM in the hall, or 11AM

Location:
7150 Pines Blvd
Pembroke Pines, FL 33024
The SE corner of Pines Blvd and 72nd Ave
Across the street from Broward college South Campus lake
(954) 989-1903
tlcppines@gmail.com


Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Monday, May 30, 2011

REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH
Based upon your experiences this past week. We share a sampling of these in our weekly BLOG to encourage others in their walk with God; they are edited to maintain anonymity. 
1. Where have you seen God working this week?
God brought us positive news as we prepare for surgery.
In nature. In young people and their potential.
My friend completing the adoption process of her child.
At church.
In the choir.
God has kept my heart without anger in a bad situation.
AA meeting.
New Way of Life Group.
In my life and in my church family.
Some healing of R.
Calls about my husband who fell last week.
The wonderful aid of some wonderful fellow Lutheran women who helped me when I fell last week.
Giving me the opportunity to help others in need.
Allowed me to be cancer-free.
In the strength of the Holy Spirit turning fear into faith
2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not?)
He softened a friend’s heart.
My physical therapist!
A friend was finally able to shake her hurts which encourages me to do the same.
At Bible Study at First Christian church
God used my family and friends to bless me this week.
B. took me to a birthday party.
My angels! B, J, L, and S.
A young friend called me mother.
D telling me to breath “like yoga” and relax.
God gave me wonderful friends! 
3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
I visited some lonely seniors.
My cousin.
I am able to listen and not judge.
At Cleveland House AA Meeting.
God used me to reach out to old friends in prayer in prayer for my friend J.
I called a few people to wish them a happy birthday.
My friend who lost her husband last week.
Girlfriends!
How has Trinity helped to sustain you in your following of Christ in the world?
Christian songs run through my mind, especially during times of stress.
We’re like family and there for each other.
Sermon on YOUTUBE – BLOG – Emails
By greeting my fellow brother with a handshake.
Just knowing that they are there.
Renewing my strength
The love and comfort of walking through the door every time – feels like home!

FAITH SNAPSHOT
The question to those at worship on March 22nd was:
What was your first faith?
Of the 15 respondents -
2  - Episcopalian
1 - Catholic
4 - Methodist
6 - Life-long Lutheran
1- Presbyterian
1- Christian church
2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget Vote
The vote on the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget will take place Sunday June 5th during our single 10AM worship service. The vote will simply be for those who believe that it is God’s will to pass the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget to raise their hands and then those who do not believe that it is God’s will to raise their hands, with the majority signifying the answer.
 
Spending Plan/Budget Presentation and Conversation
 Tuesday, May 31st from 7PM to 8PM in Charter Hall
 
Who votes?
All those who consider themselves to be members of Trinity
When would this spending plan/budget take effect?
July 1st 2011 through June 30th 2012
Is this spending plan/budget balanced?
Yes – in these complicated economic times the Budget Team and congregational council believed that this is the best course.
Once a spending plan/budget is passed how is it monitored?
The Budget Team will serve as the Finance Team for the next 12 months meeting monthly to review spending versus budget issues and making any necessary recommendations to the congregational council.
PASTOR KEITH'S SERMONS 
ON YOUTUBE
If you search for "pastorkeith2011" on youtube you should be able to find them. These are audio recordings.
The most recent sermon is always available at the top of this BLOG.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

MAY 9th 2011 SERMON
on John 14: 15–21
One the way to a burial I struck up a conversation with the driver of the hearse. He was raised an Orthodox Jew, but he confided to me that he no longer believed in organized religion. It’s too greedy he says.

I didn’t get a chance to ask him whether or not he believed in disorganized religion as an alternative. Lord, knows that I have done my share of disorganizing over the years.

What he meant, I think, is that organized religion has the potential to be all about itself. A self-feeding, self sustaining, self-preserving machine. One might struggle to find God there among the “us-first at any cost” mess.

It is always easy for a congregation to circle the wagons, turn a blind eye to those outside of its own members, fill the moat and raise the drawbridge.

Cynical? Yes.
Honest? Definitely.

Back in the day Piper and I once attended a church for a brief period of time that never shared the peace (I guess they felt that it took too much time). Further, no one ever greeted us – not on the way in or the way out. We didn’t stay long – we just didn’t fit in  in a community where had trouble welcoming people. We just weren’t feeling the love, you know what I mean?

While Jesus offers a clear vision on what a faith community can be, those same communities can chose to emulate the world instead. That is the tension in which faith communities must live: Living in the world, and not of it.

Listen:
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.

And when Jesus is asked what the two most important commandments are he says this:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment.
But he is not finished for he continues: “And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' All of scripture,” Jesus says, “depends upon these two commandments.”

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' And 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Seems pretty simple. Straightforward. Clean as it gets.
But Faith communities are messy.
That’s a fact.

Jesus, of course, always preferred messiness to simplicity.
Always preferred trouble, to a false peace that does not include justice.
Built a faith of community, not the individual.
And no doubt that he suffered for it.
No doubt he died for the sake of the community that he came to proclaim.
It flat out scared people.
 
Jesus says that communities built upon him and centered in the holy gospel  shall be defined by love.

 In 2004 Hope Lutheran Church in Port Saint Lucie was attacked by vandals who desecrated the church and set fire to it, destroying it nearly completely. Essentially, only the cross remained. St Andrews Lutheran, the other Lutheran church in town invited them to use their fellowship hall for worship. Hope was from the east end of town and St Andrews from the west. Old versus new. And together they worshipped for the three years or so that it took until Hope Lutheran’s new sanctuary could be built. No more east and west. No more old and new. Them and us.


Was St Andrews looking out for its best interest? What if some of its members “switched sides?” Weren’t they giving space to the “competition?” We could imagine the thoughts that might go through some people’s heads.

Instead, these two congregations defined their relationship as bound up by love. Love for God and love for one another.

 One of the cool things about being Lutheran is that we do not have to pretend to be perfect, but rather freed by God’s gift of grace in and through Christ Jesus we seek to live lives of daily repentance, of turning from sin and towards God; of asking for forgiveness and being forgiven. There is transformative power in such forgiveness because it forms the basis of reconciliation – of re-establishing close and grace-filled relationships.

But in the messy nature of a faith community, are we humble enough to heed God’s call to confess our wrongs, to ask God for forgiveness and to live lives of repentance – of turning from our ways and seeking God’s ways? And make no mistake, God’s ways are the ways of love.

This morning you have the opportunity to make an offering of prayer on your way up for communion. Every pew has slips of paper. If you wish, write the first name or an initial of the person that your are most struggling to love right now on that slip of paper and fold it in half. On your way up to communion there is a bowl filled with colored water – place that slip of paper, your own confession to God of your struggle to love that person, into the bow – and find as the Lord meets you in Holy Communion, God’s grace-filled response. Amen.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

HEALTHY COFFEE HOUR
This Sunday after 10:45 service we will be having our Green and Healthy Coffee Hour. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

BURROWING OWLS
As one person at Trinity raised concern about the safety of small children and burrowing owls I contacted The Florida fish and Wildlife Service who would have the most extensive knowledge to address this concern.

Their response is as follows:

"Burrowing owls coexist with many schools, parks, and homes in the area. We have never had an incident of a burrowing owl attacking a person. They are very timid and will probably fly off if approached. When people say they are afraid of them I remind them that they only weigh half a pound and have a very small bill and nails. It would be very difficult for something that small with no real natural defenses to harm a person."

++++++++++++++++
Also. as a reminder, the owls are a protected species and as such their nests may not be disturbed in any way even if they are not currently being used/occupied.

If anyone has a question about the owls and their nests, please contact Pastor Keith.  If anyone ever sees someone disturbing the owls or their nests please ask them to cease immediately and then contact the police or Pastor Keith as soon as possible. His cell number  is (954) 668 6077.

In Genesis God entrusted God’s beautiful Creation to our care - let us continue to be vigilant, gracious, and loving stewards of this precious species so rapidly in decline in Florida.

 
HEALTH AND WELLNESS NEWS!
Reminder- This Sunday after 10:45 service we will be having our Green and Healthy Coffee Hour.
 The Health and Wellness Ministry at Trinity Lutheran invites you to join us for our walking program,
Path to Faith and Fitness

When: Tuesday from 7-8 pm, starting on June 21, 2011
Where: Meeting at the Prayer Labyrinth then walk to the park at Broward College
Why: Tto nurture your spirit, be encourage in your faith, get in better shape

Each week we will meet for a short devotional time, stretching, walking and end with prayer at the labyrinth. It's a great way to stay in shape this summer and get to know your brothers and sisters at Trinity Lutheran. Set your own walking goals; all fitness levels and ages are welcome.
FEEDING THE HUNGRY
AT FIRST LUTHERAN

Just a friendly reminder, we will be helping feed the hungry at First Lutheran Church by serving dinner this Wednesday, June 1st. We will take a short break during the summer months, July and August and resume supporting this ministry in September. Please drop off any unprepared donations in Monson-Mueller Hall by Sunday, May 29th. Kindly place all perishables in the gold refrigerator.

Thank you for your continued support.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Sunday, May 29, 2011:

First Reading: Acts 17:22-31

Psalm: Psalm 66:7-18 (Psalm 66:8-20 NRSV)

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22

Gospel: John 14:15-21


In today's Gospel, we get a hint of Pentecost. Jesus tells his followers that he will never leave them orphaned or desolate, to use words from several different translations.

Every year as Ascension Day approaches, I think of those poor disciples. They have such a short time with their resurrected Lord, before he goes away again. How on earth do they cope with this?

I also see this situation as a metaphor for our own modern one. You may be feeling a bit whipsawed by grief and loss yourself. You may recover from one crisis, only to find yourself staring down the maw of the next. As I've gotten older, I've noticed that these crises seem to be increasing in frequency and severity. I look back to the dramas of my high school and college years, and I understand why so many elders chuckle dismissively at the troubles of youth. We forget, however, that trouble feels like crisis, no matter what our age.

But Jesus offers this comfort: we will never be alone.

Notice what Jesus does NOT offer: our God is not Santa Claus. Our God is not a fix everything quickly God (at least not all the time).

I have some acquaintances who claim to have lost their faith on September 11, 2001. They had been faithful in their church attendance, but once that disaster happened, they declared they couldn't believe in a God that would let such terrible things happen. No talk of free will would deter them in their determination to let go of their faith.

Earlier generations had a similar difficulty with Auschwitz (perhaps you do too). How can God let such awful things happen?

Well, that's the disadvantage of gifting humans with free will. We will sometimes get things spectacularly wrong. I think of it as being a parent of an adolescent. We want the best for our teenagers. We know the dangers are acute; so many mistakes that are made at this age are mistakes for life and can't be easily undone. So many choices made at this age will impact the rest of adulthood.

Yet as parents, we can't prevent every tragedy. All we can do is to be there for our children when they go off the rails.

Likewise as friends, as spouses and significant others, as children: we can't keep our loved ones safe. We can try to help them avoid the pitfalls that we see, but even that won't always be successful. We can only be with those we love as they suffer, in the hopes that our presence will alleviate some of the pain.

Evil has real power in the world, and we forget that at our peril. As Christians, we are called to take a longer view, and we are called to believe that God will eventually emerge victorious--but that doesn't mean that this victory will happen in our lifetimes. We are part of a larger story, and we all have our part to play. But we must be aware that we might be like Moses or the early apostles: we may not see the fruits of our labors; we may not get to the promised land (at least not in this life). The Good News that Jesus delivers should give us comfort: all of creation will be redeemed eventually, and that redemption has begun.

Return to that promise of Jesus: we are not orphaned. We are not abandoned. Even in our darkest days, when we feel at our most unlovable, God sees our value. God remembers our better selves. God knows what we could accomplish. If God can use deeply flawed people like Saul who becomes Paul, God will also weave us into the great fabric of Kingdom life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget
Presentation and Vote

Tuesday May 31st 7PM – 8PM the Spending Plan/Budget will be presented and discussed in Charter Hall for those who are interested.   

The vote on the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget will take place on Sunday June 5th during our single 10AM worship service. The vote will simply be for those who believe that it is God’s will to pass the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget to raise their hands and then those who do not believe that it is God’s will to raise their hands, with the majority signifying the answer.

Copies of the final 2011-2012 Spending Plan/budget approved by Trinity’s congregational council should be available by Thursday June 2nd and will be emailed to the congregation as well as being available in the office and Sunday morning in the narthex.
WEEKLY WORSHIP
SNAP SHOT
CITY/COUNTY OF BIRTH (MAY 15th)
The answers represent approximately 20% of our worshipping attendance for May 15th
Illinois
Hollywood, FL
Bronx, NY,
Butabach, Germany
Hoboken, NJ
Miami, FL
Miami, FL
Boca Raton, FL
Athens, Ohio
Rockville Center, NY
Jamaica
Georgetown, Guyana
Union, NJ
Brownx, NY
Guyana
Johnstown, PA
Copley, OH
Staten island, NY
Toul Rousierre AFB, France
Canada
Hyannis, Maine
Salinas, Puerto Rico

So, of the 22 people who responded
68% were born in the US
22% were born in  NY
18% were born in Florida
REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH
Based upon your experiences this past week. We share a sampling of these in our weekly BLOG to encourage others in their walk with God; they are edited to maintain anonymity.

1. Where have you seen God working this week?
Donations from my neighbor for our auction
When my grand daughter (8 yrs old) woke up early on SUN to serve her Father, Mother, and Brother breakfast in bed.
Home.
Allowing one door to close and two more to open.
He brought some positive distraction as we endure the wait for major surgery.
Answered prayer.
At Trinity
Working in me. 
2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not?)
We had a safe trip.
Home.
Bringing a new friend in my life.
A boss whose actions pointed my life in a new direction
I received cooperation and assistance when it was sorely needed.
My doctor for laser treatment on my eye.
In my home.
My Family.

3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
Making phone calls to people who are not well to lift them up.
Home.
Bought shoes for a single dad’s children (anonymously)
I have been helping my 96 year old neighbor.
I visited a lonely neighbor.
Contributed to my neighbor’s youth group dinner.
Through the Share Program.
God used me to bless my friend’s sister during this difficult time for her and her family.

How has Trinity helped to sustain you in your following of Christ in the world?
Renewing my spirit every week in order to survive.
Prayers
Carefully planned services.
Pastor and Piper
Sunday worship is always uplifting.
My Trinity brothers and sisters form an extended family, re-inforcing the Christian way of life as we go through life’s journey together.
Listening to the Word of God from Pastor Keith
Just knowing that they are there to help.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 22 SERMON on THE Second Reading:
1 Peter 2:2–10

Ask not what your church will do for you, but what you are ready to do for God.
Because God has promised to meet us here.
In the proclamation of God’s word.
In the bread and wine of the Lord’s Holy Supper.
In the waters of Baptism
In the community formed by the gathering of two or more in God’s holy and life-giving Name.

 Ask not what your church will do for you, but what you are ready to do for God.

The writer of 1st Peter tells us:
“Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

So, ask not what your church will do for you, but what you are ready to do for God.
Because God has expectations of us and for us.

Some people complain that churches today have no expectations – they make no demands, ask no commitments of any sort, not for those who view themselves as members and as far as visitors go – congregations have this habit of just opening their arms wide and smile with gratitude. They see a visitor and do a happy dance.
We had a visitor! We had a visitor!
They give them stuff. My parents when they moved to Florida visited some churches and they received a plant, a card, maybe some cookies – it was like the churches were all competing for them. Like the one that gave away something like 15,000 Starbuck’s gift cards a few Easter ago. It’s a wonder that someone doesn’t publish a webpage that lists which congregations give away the coolest stuff.

 “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Ask not what your church will do for you, but what you are ready to do for God.
Because God has expectations.
And so do we.
Of ourselves as a faith community.
If God has expectations of us, shouldn’t we have expectations of ourselves?

 As compared to many faith communities, the Elks have higher expectations. And the Moose Lodge. Even the Girl scouts and Cub Scouts have expectations.
Even the ballroom dance instructor who teaches the class that Piper and I take expects us to sign in upon arrival and to watch first as he demonstrates the moves, and then and only then, to imitate him. He also expects us to practice and it is obvious when we don't. Which is, sad to say, often the case.
Try leading with your left foot when you should be leading with your right or watching your feet instead of your partner. He is always keeping an eye on us on the dance floor and misses nothing. Nothing! He demands proper execution of the steps. For the most part, anyway. Truth be told, I think that he is mellowing with age.
Our dance instructor may have less expectations of us now than he once did – but God has more.

God has high and growing expectations because of who we are: God's own people. And as God’s own people, God expects us to proclaim the mighty acts of the one who called [us] out of darkness into God’s marvelous light

 The writer of 1st Peters puts it bluntly:
Once you were not a people,
but now you are God's people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.

 To follow Christ is to be a disciple. And the life of a disciple is called discipleship – and that is not a word that we need to be afraid of, is it?
If someone shouts “SNAKE” or “disciple!” I would grab a shovel for the snake and offer the disciple some bread.

The word “Disciple” should not scare us – it is who were are as God’s people –followers of Jesus who proclaim and embody the Good News  -the might acts of God  which the writer of First Peter is telling us about.

Discipleship isn't about just showing up, but it might begin there. It does for a lot of people. They show up. They show up and God meets them. Welcomes them. throws a party in heaven for them. Since they are "home." And when people come home that’s what God does. 

Discipleship isn't about just showing up, but it might begin there.
And there, one hopes, one discovers through the work of the Holy Spirit and
the humble and profound love of the community (in other words, our love for them) who we really are. 

 Listen:
 you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light

 And as disciples, we should not be asking what our church will do for us, but what we are ready to do for God.
Because God has expectations.
And so do we.

Last week I asked you to write down the name of someone who has wandered away from a faith community or even sought to wander away from God.
I asked you to pray for their return.
And then, with all boldness I asked you to enact that prayer on behalf of God. To embody it - to move from prayer to action – to be the instrument of God’s answer. To be a little shepherd at work empowered by the Holy Spirit on behalf of the Shepherd of us all.
I would like you now to take out the worship insert and find the prayer list and write one word at the bottom of it – the word is for you. I’ll give you three to choose from. “Pray” “Ask” or “Ask Again” and write the name of the person who God is calling you to reach out to – the one sheep that Jesus is willing to leave the 99 to go find. The word and the name are for you. Be God’s instrument through which God will the answer the prayer.
And as disciples, we should not be asking what our church will do for us, but what we are ready to do for God.

Amen.




Wednesday, May 18, 2011

***SPENDING PLAN/BUDGET INFO***

2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget Presentation
2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget Vote

Tuesday May 31st 7PM – 8PM the Spending Plan/Budget will be presented and discussed in Charter Hall for those who are interested.  This is the designated opportunity to discuss the budget.

Sunday June 5th The vote on the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget will take place during our single 10AM worship service. The vote will simply be for those who believe that it is God’s will to pass the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget to raise their hands and then those who do not believe that it is God’s will to raise their hands  - with the majority signifying the answer.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Those with questions about the spending plan/budget or who desire to discuss  or suggest changes should attend the May 31st presentation as Sunday June 5th will be for voting only.

 The draft spending plan/budget will be available at the presentation workshop on May 31st and copies of the final 2011-2012 Spending Plan/budget should be available by Thursday June 2nd and will be emailed to the congregation as well as being available in the office on that day as well as Sunday morning June 5th in the narthex.
Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott



The readings for Sunday, May 22, 2010:

First Reading: Acts 7:55-60


Psalm: Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16


Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:2-10


Gospel: John 14:1-14


The Gospel for today has some troubling concepts in later verses, concepts that raise all sorts of questions that don't have easy answers. For example, when Jesus says, ". . . no one comes to the Father, but by me," does that mean that non-Christians are damned? And if that's the case, are we talking about Heaven and Hell (post-death?) or the Hell on Earth that comes from being alienated from Creation and the Creator?

At some point, I’ll read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, even though I’m fairly sure I already understand his thesis. I likely agree. I tend to believe a loving God won’t send any of us to Hell, at least not more than the Hell we create for ourselves on Earth. But this week, I’m not interested in playing Afterlife Scorecard.
The first verse of this Gospel speaks to me this week: "Let not your hearts be troubled." How often is my heart troubled!

I've often thought that my deepest spiritual failing comes in my tendency to fret and to worry and to give in to full-out panic--I go through this cycle weekly, if not daily. I've managed to tame many of my other spiritual shortcomings. Why is it so hard for me to let not my heart be troubled?

I’ve spent a lot of the week thinking about the Freedom Riders, who went with untroubled hearts into the heart of oppression. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what they accomplished with their enthusiasm and by their naive belief in the goodness of humanity, their belief that they would be allowed to eat lunch together in segregated spaces, that they would be allowed to ride on a bus together.

In many ways, they were like the earliest Christians, who shared meals together and studied together and plotted ways to bring an end to injustice. Today’s reading from Acts and the violence suffered by the Freedom Riders reminds us that the price may be great. Perhaps we worry that we are not up to the task.

This passage also has Jesus tell us about the house with many rooms, a passage often interpreted as being about Heaven, but looked at contextually, Jesus could also be talking about our ministries on Earth. Perhaps he tells us that the Christian life has room for all of us, even if we can’t be Freedom Riders or the first martyr Stephen. Think about your particular gifts--how can you make Christ visible in the world?

When I was younger, I thought we needed to change the world for the better on a grand, global scale (thus setting myself up for failure when I couldn't eradicate world hunger in the course of my lifetime). Now I know that the things we do for each other to help each other are just as important: staying late to help a student, listening to a friend (not solving problems, just listening), bringing fruit, cookies, and coffee for a memorial service.

We never know what we may unleash. When the Freedom Riders boarded the bus, they had no idea of the social changes that they were about to unfurl. They assumed they’d be taking a two week bus trip to New Orleans. When we behave as the light of the world, similarly, we may help usher in God’s larger plan for the redemption of creation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

 REFLECTING ON OUR FAITH
Based upon your experiences this past week. We share a sampling of these in our weekly BLOG to encourage others in their walk with God; they are edited to maintain anonymity.
1. Where have you seen God working this week?
All over!

In my home
Being in the presence of someone who is alone.

2. Where Did God use someone else to bless you this week (whether they knew it or not?)
At work.
At the Share program.
When the shut-ins tell me that they pray for me every day.

I heard people’s testimony and was able to thank God for not letting me go through that much because I very well could have.

3. Where did God use you to bless someone else this week?
Making calls to shut-ins
A friend.
My son’s house
At Celebrate Recovery at Calvary Chapel
Just being there for folks to listen, show empathy and pray.

How has Trinity helped to sustain you in your following of Christ in the world?
Meeting friends.
In my AA Recovery and the Bible
Continued encouragement and support and blessings for the weekly sermon.
Hearing PK’s sermons always make sense in my present life.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

SERMON ON PSALM 23                MAY 15 2011

When I was around seven years old the very notion of God scared me to death.

At seven my God was pretty simple: like a stern parent God was always watching; far far worse than Santa Claus. God really knew if you had been good or bad. And the consequences were much worse than a few lumps of coal in your stocking which of course we would hang every year on the card board chimney in our living room.  

I remember accidently swearing  - caught up in the excitement of a rather enormous game of freeze tag involving half of our block – running as fast as my little legs (and they were little then) could carry me and having the person who was “it” run me down; me running like some small rabbit with a sprained ankle.

Nearly 40 years later I can recall that day with perfect clarity  - my seven year old self  looking up at the darkening twilight sky as the inappropriate expletive came out of my mouth of its own accord. And this is the thought that held me captive: would God send lightning to strike me dead right then and there? I had used God’s name in vain. My memory of some Sunday school lesson seemed to recall a commandment or two that strictly forbade that. So I knew in my heart that at seven years old my life was over – before I got to walk on the moon or swim with dolphins and do all those other things that I had hoped to get to before the term “bucket list” even existed.  


The LORD is my shepherd;
            I shall not be in want.
The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures
            and leads me beside still waters.
You restore my soul.
 
Well, I never did walk on the moon or swim with the dolphins – at least not yet - and God never did get around to sending that lightning bolt though mom did keep a bar of soap around just in case my mouth spontaneously uttered one of George Carlin’s 7 dirty words and a few more besides.   

So no lightning, but what did happen, I think, is that every opportunity that arose in my life that by all rights could have driven me away from God, a God who seemed at times scary or distant or indifferent or even cruel - didn’t. Could’ve, but didn’t.

Sheep have a reputation for not being the most intelligent of creatures and I was and at times and still am from time to time a sheep with the particular habit of getting myself lost. And there was enough pain and tragedy and confusion and teenage audacity to do so some several times before I was old enough to vote. Every opportunity that arose in my young life that by all rights could have driven me away from God, in which I could have taken another road and never look back until I left God in the long forgotten distance of unimportance and irrelevance, did not. The Good Shepherd keeps an eye on the sheep even when our eyes are looking for the next even more green pasture – the one with that simply scrumptious turf that everyone is always talking about – that we just have to try.

The LORD is my shepherd;
            I shall not be in want.
The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures
            and leads me beside still waters.
You restore my soul.

In college while the Good Shepherd was keeping an eye on me, I stopped going to worship. I slept – Sunday being the only morning not ruled by the alarm clock.

No worship. No faith community. At the most critical time in my life, I wandered away from God and focused on other things. Like sleep. And girls. And a thousand other things that I deemed more important. Like sleep. And girls.

But the Good Shepherd just wouldn’t let me go. Couldn’t let me go.
Instead, Jesus sent a Godly woman already involved in a faith community to bring me back.
 
These days we had numbed ourselves to writing things off – cutting our losses  - even when it comes to friendships. Nothing is sacred when it comes to our search for personal happiness, it seems. But our God is a strange one. Does the complete opposite. Shows us the way we ought to live.  Would leave the 99 sheep to search for the one that is lost. Even and especially if that one…is us. Would welcome one back who had turned their back upon God. And not greet with conditions or demands or with chastising and a cross word or even an “I told you so,” but throws a party instead. A ridiculously loud celebration with good food.  The kind that if heaven had neighbors they would be calling the police – a crazy loud, raucous party. For us.

 The LORD is my shepherd;
            I shall not be in want.
The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures
            and leads me beside still waters.
You restore my soul.

Our God will not deny us the ability to make choices. We see a pasture over the next hill that we find interesting – well off we go! Or we want are feeling particular lazy and the rest of the sheep head off looking for new pasture, the old having served its purpose and its grass gone, so be it. Off they go, while we stay put. For me that defined my faith experience for much of college. But the God the Good Shepherd must have an awful lot of fingers and toes – keeps count – knows when we go missing – and will not abandon us even if we try to abandon God.  And boy, sometimes we try real hard. We want to take this journey to find ourselves. That journey can be scary for those who love us. I can’t begin to count the number of anxious parents who have come to me sharing that their teen or young adult has informed them that they no longer believe in God. The kids want to find themselves and seem to question everything, particularly if it came from an adult. They need to authenticate everything even their faith in God.

And God has prepared people like you and me, through our own journeys, our own faith experiences, our doubts and questions, and even getting lost a time or two, to be little shepherds, servants of the Good Shepherd, in helping people find their way, through the power of the Holy Spirit, back home. Back to God.

I want you to think of someone who God wants you to go and find and then lead back. Back to God and a loving faith community. Someone once led me back when I had wandered off and I cannot begin to fathom what life would have been like if that little shepherd had not come into my life when she did.  God wants us all to be little shepherds doing the Good Shepherd’s divine work. Think of a name and write it in your News and Announcements – the insert that we encourage you to take home each week. Write their name at the end of the prayer list as a reminder to pray for their return and when you do, pray that God make us all ever so bold to put that prayer into action.

The LORD is my shepherd;
            I shall not be in want.
The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures
            and leads me beside still waters.
You restore my soul.
Amen.





CONGRATS TO OUR 2011 High School and College Graduates!
Graduates will be recognized and Blessed on Sunday May 15th at either service.

Dinesh McCoy (The University School)
Racquel Malave (Dr. Michael M. Krop High School)
Alexander Hocke and Bryan Hocke (Archbishop McCarthy High School )
Sarah Brombacher (Miramar High School)
Elizabeth Gonzalez (Florida State University)
Susan Allan (Florida International University)
and Richard Masana (Marge and Frank's Grandson just received his Law Degree!)
2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget
 Presentation and Vote
Tuesday May 31st 7PM – 8PM the Spending Plan/Budget will be presented and discussed in Charter Hall for those who are interested.  This is the scheduled opporunity for conversation.

 The vote on the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget will take place on Sunday June 5th during our single 10AM worship service. The vote, following a time of prayer and silence, will simply be for those who believe that it is God’s will to pass the 2011-2012 Spending Plan/Budget to raise their hands and then those who do not believe that it is God’s will to raise their hands, with the majority signifying the answer.

Copies of the final 2011-2012 Spending Plan/budget should be available by Thursday June 2nd and will be emailed to the congregation as well as being available in the office and Sunday morning in the narthex.

If there are any questions about these procedures, please contact Pastor Keith or congregational Council President Kristin Berkey Abbott

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, May 15, 2011:

First Reading: Acts 2:42-47

Psalm: Psalm 23

Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:19-25

Gospel: John 10:1-10


In this week's Gospel, Christ mixes metaphors a bit, talking about sheep and calling himself a doorway for the sheep to find pasture. He also warns of thieves and robbers, and we might ask ourselves who are modern day thieves and robbers? Who are the ones who would lead us astray?

Well, there are lots of contenders, aren't there? But the ones I'm finding most insidious these days are all the electronic activities which steal so much of our time away from us.

You don’t believe me? Try an Internet fast and see what happens. Could you go for a day without logging on? Could you go for a week?

At the past two Synod Assemblies, we’ve had free computer access with wireless connections provided to us by Thrivent, but we didn’t this year. We had wireless in our hotel rooms, but I didn’t have the laptop with me. At times, I felt positively anxious because I couldn’t log on.

We might tell ourselves that we use our online time to stay connected to family and friends, and I will admit that it’s easier to stay in touch with some people via Facebook than it was with e-mail or old-fashioned paper letters. But most of us don’t post very deep thoughts on our Facebook accounts. A brief status update is better than nothing. But often, I find myself wondering how my friends are REALLY doing.

But do I take the time to write a Facebook message to ask? No. I’m too busy racing off to the next Internet diversion.

You might protest that the Internet has allowed you to meet new people. I’ve been part of poetry communities that wouldn’t have been possible without this easy way to connect. But can those kind of Internet friendships give us what we yearn for?

We might tell ourselves that the Internet allows us to stay current with what’s happening in the world, and in some ways, it’s a wonderful thing. I can read newspapers from all over the world, often for the price of my Internet connection. Not only that, I can read the opinions of others about those articles. In some forums, I can trade ideas with people. But all of that staying current comes with a price: it takes time away from other activities. Some of those displaced activities might be trading ideas with real people at a real supper table.

Very few of us will find real community via the Internet. We often think we don't have time because we're all very busy these days. But what is really sucking away our time? For some of us, it is, indeed, our jobs. For many of us, it’s our Internet lives: we’ve got a lot of stuff to read, videos to watch, plus games to play, and virtual farms to keep up, plus status updates, and all the information we can Google now, and so we do (whereas before, if it required a trip to the library, many of us would have stayed ignorant). And if you’re like me, once you’ve spent so much of your day staring at screens, you may find it hard to reconnect to humans at the end of the day. You may feel your brain gone fuzzy. You may find yourself irritable at these humans who demand that you respond. You may withdraw before you ever have/take/make time to reconnect.

The Internet also takes time away from our relationship with God. I’ve found useful websites that allow me to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but for the most part, I’m not noodling around the Internet looking for ways to enhance my relationship with God—or with anyone else, for that matter. I suspect that if I’m brutally honest, even my relationship with myself suffers when I spend too much time on the Internet.

Now the Internet is not the only tool and resource that allows us to sidestep the hard work of relationship. Some of us narcotize ourselves with television or with spending more hours at work than the work requires or with the relentless pace of the activities that our children do (and need us to drive them to) or any of the other countless activities that humans use in ways that aren’t healthy.

These activities can not only keep us from relationship with humans but can deafen our ears to the voice of that shepherd that goes out looking for us. Our Bible tells us over and over that God yearns to be in relationship with us. But if we’re too busy for our families and friends, we’re likely not making time for God either.

So, try an Internet sabbath, even if it’s just for a few hours a week. Try doing it every week. Invite real people over for dinner (or go serve a meal to the less fortunate). Read a book. Play an old-fashioned board game. Listen for the voice of God who calls to you across space and time. Answer.